I was once a disoriented, naive soul adrift at sea… Floating aimlessly away into a pitch-black oblivion, I felt as if there was no more hope for me… I had no previous knowledge on dumplings or what the future held for me… One day, I was shown the light. I was shown, Din Tai Fung.
I didn’t know dumplings could taste so amazing, I was accustomed to the usual, Sunday morning brunch dim sum spots. The ones you go to with your family for some quick, affordable, and tasty dim sum, with low expectations of good service—because let’s face it, getting the dim sum cart lady’s attention is a fairly difficult challenge. It’s not that this dim sum is not enjoyable, it’s just that it’s nothing special.
One day, after being lost all these years, with no knowledge of this higher end dim sum dining, I was brought to Din Tai Fung. Din Tai Fung is a restaurant, originating from Taiwan, which has chains all over the world, such as Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, Dubai, the United States, etc. Din Tai Fung is known for their Shanghai-style soup dumplings, ‘Xiaolongbao’ or soup dumplings. The dumpling has a delicate, thin layer of skin and is traditionally filled with pork (crab and shrimp as well). The soup portion of the dumpling is from aspic (gelatin made from meat stock) which turns into soup when the dumpling is steamed. (The aspic part sounds gross but I promise the results are phenomenal!)
You may’ve seen a lengthy line (2-3 hour wait on average during crowds) outside a fancy looking Chinese restaurant while shopping at South Coast Plaza. This would be Din Tai Fung. Din Tai Fung opened in August of 2014 at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. It is located to what used to be McDonald’s. (The closing of McDonald’s still bums me out; I had a lot of childhood memories there) My first visit to Din Tai Fung was sometime in 2014, but I can’t remember much other than the fact that it was life changing, and very delicious.
My favorite dish at Din Tai Fung, by far, are the the spicy (shrimp) wontons. I do not have much to say about them, besides that they are the best wontons I’ve ever had in my life. What makes the wontons so amazing, is that they come in a bowl of “spicy sauce” (comparable to the secret formula of the Krabby Patty). The sauce has the perfect amount of spice, and adds a great tangy component to the wontons. The sauce is so good, that the waiters ask you if you are sure you don’t want to keep the leftover sauce when you’re done with the dish. If you plan on visiting Din Tai Fung, I recommend keeping the spicy sauce for your other dumplings, or adding them onto the Pork Chop Fried Rice!
My second favorite dish is of course, the world renowned pork xiaolongbao dumplings. I am not a fan of the crab and pork XLB (Xiaolongbao abbreviation) combination or the XLB with truffle butter. The tradition pork dumplings are amazing on their own without any other add ons. One order of XLB contains 10 dumplings; They are so amazing, I could probably eat the entire platter in one sitting… The pork Xiaolongbao dumplings have thin skins, with flavorful pork and soup inside. Pairing these dumplings with soy sauce, spicy chili sauce, a splash of vinegar, and ginger make them 10x better!
Another thing I adore about this restaurant is that they have a glass window, where customers can watch people making dumplings! This is a signature feature that Din Tai Fung is known for. All the dumplings are individually handmade, each one delicately rolled in flour, and molded into ( what I call) “purse-shaped” dumplings.
Overall, I really recommend Din Tai Fung. They have a great-ranged menu; From stir-fried vegetables, fried rice, soups, dumplings, noodle-soups, and buns, Din Tai Fung has something that everyone will like. Not to mention they have a massive selection of brewed teas, milk teas, fruit teas, and desserts to choose from. Additionally, it is a great restaurant for families or big groups. Prices are very reasonable; Dishes range from around $8-13. Din Tai Fung is known for their long waits, which usually scares people off from trying the restaurant. I recommend steering clear of weekend mornings, especially around 10-12pm. If you wish to go on a Saturday or Sunday morning, try to go right when it opens and be the first group seated. I prefer weekday nights because it’s normally less than a 15 minute wait! What I dislike about Din Tai Fung is that they do not accept phone reservations. You have to put your name at the front of the restaurant, and register your phone number, which you will receive a text message when your table is ready. After the text message is sent, you have roughly 10 minutes before you lose your table. It’s not so bad considering you have an entire mall to kill your 1 hour wait time in.
I hope this has helped you dumpling lovers, good luck on your foodie adventures!